Film captures 'slice-of-life feel' in Buxton

Shannon Prince, the curator of the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum, is photographed in front of a screen projecting the 1987 film Home to Buxton at the Thames Art Gallery on Thursday. This scene from the film shows her son Justin, who is now 38. Prince and her husband Bryan will be part of a discussion about the film after it is screened on Feb. 29. The film can also be viewed during regular hours at the gallery as part of the Legends Are the Rivers that Take Us Home exhibition. Tom Morrison / jpg, CD

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It has been more than 33 years since a film crew came to North Buxton to document the 62nd annual homecoming event over Labour Day weekend.

The result was the 1987 movie, Home to Buxton, directed by Claire Prieto and Roger McTair, which covered the history of the black Canadian settlement, the people who lived there at the time and the event held the prior year.

The 29-minute film is currently being screened as part of curator Cara Eastcott’s Legends Are the Rivers that Take Us Home exhibit at the Thames Art Gallery, and a community screening will be held at the end of February.

Shannon Prince, who is now the curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, appeared in the film with her family. She said she watched it again recently, and it “brought tears” to her eyes.

“There were so many people that are not here anymore,” she said. “When you’re watching it, those memories come back and it’s like, ‘Oh, I remember that,’ and then you can even hear them saying those words again or acting the way they did.”

Prince, 65, who will be part of a discussion following the screening of the film, said its slice-of-life feel still “resonates” with her and she hopes others will feel the same.

“It’s just, this is how we are and this is how Buxton was and still is, not on that larger scale, but still that warm country farm feeling and homey feeling,” she said.

Other than the people who have died since the film came out, the landscape of the area is one of the other features that has changed, said Prince.

“It’s nice when you watch it and then when you see that next generation, you can see people picking up that torch where that last generation left.”

However, many things that happen in the film still happen today, said Prince. She pointed to scenes of residents singing a cappella together in backyards as an example.

Prince said she remembers being sort of “nonchalant” about the filming of the documentary.

“I was out in the backyard playing with the kids and that’s one of the scenes that’s in the video and it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, I probably should have put some other clothes on instead of my blue jeans just coming from the field and my sweatshirt,’” she said.

“That’s what I remember. It’s like, ‘Why didn’t I put on something that was looking better,’ but to me this was how we live every day.”

One person interviewed in the film said that Buxton Homecoming was one of the few chances black residents of Southwestern Ontario and elsewhere could come together.

Prince said she doesn’t see it that way now, but maybe that was how people felt in 1986.

“It has evolved over the years,” she said. “At one time, people would call the museum to say, ‘Is it OK if I come, even though I’m not black and even though I don’t have any ties to the area?’ And it’s like, ‘Yes, please do. This is not just for blacks.’”

Prince said Buxton and the homecoming is “part of everyone’s history and culture.

“The more we share, the more we learn and the more we embrace everyone,” she said.

The film will be screened for free at the gallery on Feb. 29 at 1 p.m.

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